Influence of Institutional Environment and the Development of Social Enterprise in Nigeria

Domnan Miri, Walter Mswaka, Olu Aluko

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Influence of Institutional Environment and the Development of Social Enterprise in Nigeria
The ‘concepts and model of social enterprise worldwide’ is increasingly attracting academic interest. With an organisational orientation towards resolution of social problems that are locally embedded in different environments, it necessitates the need for empirical and contextual insights (Defourny & Nyssens, 2008; Kerlin, 2006; Rivera-Santos et al., 2015). More so, definitions emanating from different contexts portray the inclinations of individual players (such as governments, entrepreneurs, academics) and divergent interest (Pearce & Kay, 2003; Weerawardena & Mort, 2006; Teasdale, 2011). The different typologies in explaining social enterprise are often attributed to the contextual development of the phenomenon (Defourny & Borzaga, 2001). While research have explored the influence of institutional (economic, legal, cultural, social) differences on social enterprises in some developed and emerging environments. The particular attention has been paid on the European and American context (Kerlin, 2006; Teasdale, 2011), which came up with country and regional consensus. Yet, there is lack of understanding how the differences influence empirical elucidations of social enterprises in different contexts, such as a developing country like Nigeria. Furthermore, there is inadequate evidence on how different institutional arrangements directly influence the organisational forms, sectors, and scope that social enterprises encompass in developing countries (Kerlin, 2012).

With research suggesting diversity in contextual knowledge, the understanding of the roles of institutional environment on social enterprise conception will be of practical value in advancing theoretical models (Austin, 2006). To address these challenges, therefore, this paper draws on neo-institutional standpoint to advance the understanding of how institutional arrangements (regulations, public policies, laws, socio-cultural understandings and processes) influence the conception and development of social enterprise in Nigeria. By doing so, we argue that the focus on the organisational level of analysis aligns with the need to focus on structure (Greenwood, Hinings, & Whetten, 2014), rather than the institution alone. It is posited that Nigerian context presents an environment with a weak formal institutional arrangements supporting social enterprises. However, institutional theory posits that robust formal institutional arrangements are partial requirements for organisational homogeneity (Meyer & Rowan, 1977). Thus, rather than advancing homogeneity in structure and practice of social enterprises, heterogeneity could be the scenario in the Nigerian context due to the weakness in formal institutional arrangement. Doing so, it will provide an insight into how the weakness, absence or breakdown of formal institutional arrangement influences social enterprise development in a developing country context.

This article utilises a qualitative method. Using purposive and snowballing sampling techniques, thirty two semi-structured interviews have been conducted with social entrepreneurs and regulatory agency heads in Nigeria. Each interview lasted for thirty to forty five minutes, and were recorded. A verbatim transcription was done and transcripts were imported to NVivo for data analysis. Using a thematic analysis technique, several themes have been generated and analysed. Our Findings reveal that important role culture plays on the nature and character of SE, while noting its key role in engendering social consciousness and advocacy against institutional apathy. Another finding is the increasing awareness of dwindling donor funding and, the structure change, through development of commercial components to SE’s social goals to ensure their sustainability.

Based on the above mentioned, it is important to note that SEs are bridging the gaps and influencing governmental actions through their activities in developing countries in contrast to developed countries where government plays a more pronounced role in SEs activities. This study has implications for policy makers, developmental partners, SEs and researchers.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jul 2017
Externally publishedYes
Event6th EMES International Research Conference on Social Enterprise - Universite Catholique , Louvain-Le-Neuve, Belgium
Duration: 3 Jul 20176 Jul 2017


Conference6th EMES International Research Conference on Social Enterprise
Abbreviated title6th EMES International Research Conference on Social Enterprise
Internet address

Bibliographical note


Austin, James E. (2006). Three avenues for social entrepreneurship research. Social entrepreneurship, 22-33.

Defourny, Jacques, & Borzaga, C. (2001). From third sector to social enterprise: London: Routledge.

Defourny, Jacques, & Nyssens, Marthe. (2008). Social enterprise in Europe: recent trends and developments. Social enterprise journal, 4(3), 202-228.

Kerlin, Janelle A. (2006). Social enterprise in the United States and Europe: Understanding and learning from the differences. Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 17(3), 246-262.

Kerlin, Janelle A. (2012). Defining social enterprise across different contexts: A conceptual framework based on institutional factors. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 0899764011433040.

Meyer, John W, & Rowan, Brian. (1977). Institutionalized organizations: Formal structure as myth and ceremony. American journal of sociology, 340-363.

Pearce, John, & Kay, Alan. (2003). Social enterprise in anytown: Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.

Rivera-Santos, Miguel, Holt, Diane, Littlewood, David, & Kolk, Ans. (2015). Social entrepreneurship in sub-Saharan Africa. The Academy of Management Perspectives, 29(1), 72-91.

Teasdale, Simon. (2011). What’s in a name? Making sense of social enterprise discourses. Public policy and administration, 0952076711401466.

Weerawardena, Jay, & Mort, Gillian Sullivan. (2006). Investigating social entrepreneurship: A multidimensional model. Journal of world business, 41(1), 21-35.


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